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R Strauss: Eine Alpensinfonie etc (Philharmonia/Rouvali)

Philharmonia Orchestra/Santtu-Matias Rouvali (Signum Classics)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

R Strauss
Eine Alpensinfonie; Also sprach Zarathustra; Don Juan; Till Eulenspiegel
Philharmonia Orchestra/Santtu-Matias Rouvali
Signum Classics SIGCD720   126:35 mins (2 discs)


The two big works are taken live from Santtu-Matias Rouvali’s first concerts in 2021 as principal conductor of the Philharmonia Orchestra, and were well received at the time. There was the excitement of a new, young conductor, as well as one of the earliest opportunities for a big orchestral experience coming out of the pandemic. In the cold light of day, I’m not so sure, mostly because the recording doesn’t always allow detail to come through, especially at climaxes. The harps are virtually inaudible in the Joys and Passions section of Also sprach Zarathustra, and much of Strauss’s orchestral texture is congested. A pity, as the performance is well-judged, and what can be a sprawling piece has overall shape and direction.

Eine Alpensinfonie comes off better on the whole: Strauss’s orchestration isn’t as intricate, so there’s less that can become lost, and it’s really only the climax of the Storm which becomes muddied. But there’s some distracting singing along (from the conductor, I assume) and the offstage brass in The Ascent are distressingly present. A good souvenir for those who had the luck to be present on the day, but not really first recommendations.

Don Juan and Till Eulenspiegel were recorded under studio conditions, and are better in sonic terms. You can hear the excellence of the solo work, in the wind in particular and there’s a greater bloom on the sound. There’s a slight air of caution compared to the live performances, but Rouvali’s moulding of structure is again sure-footed.


Martin Cotton